A quick look at biochemistry: carbohydrate metabolism

Clin Biochem. 2013 Oct;46(15):1339-52. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiochem.2013.04.027. Epub 2013 May 14.


In mammals, there are different metabolic pathways in cells that break down fuel molecules to transfer their energy into high energy compounds such as adenosine-5'-triphosphate (ATP), guanosine-5'-triphosphate (GTP), reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH2), reduced flavin adenine dinucleotide (FADH2) and reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH2). This process is called cellular respiration. In carbohydrate metabolism, the breakdown starts from digestion of food in the gastrointestinal tract and is followed by absorption of carbohydrate components by the enterocytes in the form of monosaccharides. Monosaccharides are transferred to cells for aerobic and anaerobic respiration via glycolysis, citric acid cycle and pentose phosphate pathway to be used in the starvation state. In the normal state, the skeletal muscle and liver cells store monosaccharides in the form of glycogen. In the obesity state, the extra glucose is converted to triglycerides via lipogenesis and is stored in the lipid droplets of adipocytes. In the lipotoxicity state, the lipid droplets of other tissues such as the liver, skeletal muscle and pancreatic beta cells also accumulate triacylglycerol. This event is the axis of the pathogenesis of metabolic dysregulation in insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. In this paper a summary of the metabolism of carbohydrates is presented in a way that researchers can follow the biochemical processes easily.

Keywords: Carbohydrate; Gluconeogenesis; Glycogenesis; Glycogenolysis; Glycolysis; Oxidative pathway; Pentose phosphate pathway; Pyruvate decarboxylation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Citric Acid Cycle*
  • Gluconeogenesis*
  • Glycolysis*
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Metabolic Syndrome / metabolism
  • Metabolic Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Monosaccharides / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Pentose Phosphate Pathway*


  • Monosaccharides